Chauncey Flay, who recently spent a month working with Tavioni at his studio in Atupa ahead of a sculpture exhibition last week, said he wanted to help the renowned artist “get some non-institutional support – especially from Cook Islanders around the world who know what he has given to the arts and want to give something back”.
The former Rarotonga resident – who lived on the island between 2011 and 2017 – set up the online fundraiser earlier this week.
Flay said Tavioni was “very reluctant” to apply for additional grants or ask for money.
“I’ve convinced him – after many talks – that there will be many people out there in communities around the world that would happily support him in developing his art centre if they knew how.
“There is no shame in reaching out, and Givealittle will be a great way to fast track his project with the support of people who he has helped in the past, or who want to support him back now.”
While Tavioni’s gallery is nearly complete – having just housed the aforementioned sculpture exhibition – the associated art centre and art school are still some ways off and work is progressing slowly due to limited cash flow.
Flay said that during his recent trip to Rarotonga he became “inspired” by what Tavioni was working towards.
“I’ve had the privilege of watching Mike work, listening to his stories and benefitting from his endless generosity, spirit and humour,” he said.
“All the time while I was there people would come to visit, maybe ask him to carve something, to donate a sculpture for a charity fundraiser, teach them some carving skills, or just sit down for a long chat about common friends, relatives or experiences.
“Mike was always happy to share and give to others, but the dream he constantly talked of was his plans to build his art centre.”
Flay said starting the Givealittle page was his way of helping Tavioni achieve that dream.
“At this point I believe his energy needs to be going into making art, teaching, and sharing his vast knowledge, not scraping together some money to buy a few more bags of cement or sheets of roofing iron.”